Crucible Diary: Day Twelve

The night after the day before at the Crucible as the dust settles on the momentous decision taken by Stephen Hendry to retire from tournament snooker. A full tribute will follow from me in due course, but in the meantime we still have a World Championship to be decided, as the semi-final line-up will be decided…

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Arriving at the Crucible Theatre for another day during what has become a quite remarkable tournament in terms of stories, by the time that I had arrived in the media room I could already see Matthew Stevens in the press room completing his post-match interviews, following a 13-5 victory against friend and countryman Ryan Day this morning.

While the announcement of Stephen Hendry yesterday had grabbed all of the headlines, that story had in fact overshadowed a terrific performance from Matthew, who won all eight of the frames played during his second session with Ryan to move two away from victory at 11-5, having at one point trailed 2-5.

A number of people have been asking me on Twitter whether Matthew’s eleven frame run is in fact a Crucible record, but I can confirm courtesy of the ever-dependable Crucible Almanac that this is not the case. The record for consecutive frames in one match is the 13 won by Mark Williams during his 13-2 victory against Quinten Hann back in 2003, while Peter Ebdon won 16 frames across two matches in 2006 against David Gray and Shaun Murphy.

The overall record however is held by that man Hendry, who won the last 10 frames of the 1992 final against Jimmy White, before moving into a 9-0 lead against Danny Fowler during his opening round match the following year.

Take nothing away from Stevens however, while he did not record a century break during the match, a pot success rate of 93% compared to just 84% for his opponent demonstrates why he deserved the victory and a place in the semi-finals for an impressive sixth time. Can he take the title at last?

Meanwhile over on table one, Ali Carter leads Jamie Jones 7-6 in what is developing into another classic for the 2008 finalist, particularly as Jamie recently made back to back total clearances of 138 and 132 to draw level at 6-6. It is hard not be impressed with the way that Jamie has seemingly hit century breaks for fun (he has had five over 130), while he has also taken to playing at the Crucible as impressively as anyone since Matthew Stevens back in 1998.

As Jamie was in the process of compiling his back to back tons, Barry Hearn was in the process of formally announcing the staging of the Wuxi Classic this year, confirming that the event will now be a full-ranking event and will run for at least the next five years. The highlight from the press conference though had to be the exchange of gifts which saw him and WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson receive necklaces from the Chinese delegation, before offering signed snooker cues in return.

Turning to the afternoon session, with Stephen Maguire through to the semi-finals with a session to spare, Neil Robertson and Ronnie O’Sullivan will have the arena to themselves for their second session of what is surely the tie of the round, Robertson leading 5-3 overnight. Given the attitude that O’Sullivan has exhibited of late however, he can certainly not be discounted…

Having popped out for a bit of food, I got word that there was to be a special guard of honour for Stephen Hendry in the Crucible arena ahead of the afternoon session and duly rushed back to take up a media seat from which to view the Scot take centre stage here for the final time.

Though it was a nice moment, with the crowd giving him a standing ovation, various former world champions in there along with the trophy, it was perhaps a bit of an anti-climax as he walked around, smiled at the crowd and then exited the arena. A few words to the crowd would have been a nice touch I feel, but I guess you can’t have everything.

Over to the serious stuff meanwhile and Ronnie O’Sullivan has made the perfect start, taking two frames in little over 10 minutes to level up his match with Neil Robertson at 5-5. Game on.